Jason Horne-Francis during the round 23 match between Fremantle and Port Adelaide at Optus Stadium, August 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THERE are high hopes for Jason Horne-Francis to take his game to the next level after an injury-free pre-season, as Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley backed Brownlow medallist Ollie Wines to return to his best form.

Horne-Francis had a season in the spotlight at Alberton Oval in 2023 following his blockbuster trade from North Melbourne after only one season as the Kangaroos' No.1 draft pick.

The youngster also had surgery on both knees at the end of 2022 once arriving at Port Adelaide, leading to a largely interrupted first pre-season at the club, however his second off-season with the Power has been a different story.

The 20-year-old travelled to America with Port veteran Travis Boak for a training camp and has been a consistent high performer across the summer as he works alongside star midfield duo Zak Butters and Connor Rozee. Hinkley said he had seen the difference of a full pre-season for the explosive ball-winner.

"First and foremost he's had a summer. That would be a critical piece. He came to us and had these two massive scars on the back of his legs and he basically didn't train until February. Then he had to play an AFL season with an incredible amount of scrutiny on him," Hinkley told AFL.com.au.


"There's times where players have had to deal with big, big moments in their careers and he's one who, at 19 years of age, was being challenged more than most. But to go through that season and deliver what he delivered in his first season back at Port Adelaide set us on a path of excitement of what we think he might be able to achieve."

Hinkley said the next stage in Horne-Francis' evolution as one of the competition's powerful midfielders was to do it for longer periods of games.

"He is an impact player currently and he needs to be a full-game player for us and to grow his ability to play forward of the ball, on-ball and to become more dangerous in other areas of the game will be also important for him. His training's at a level he's never been to before," Hinkley said.

Wines endured a tough campaign last year as he battled a knee injury and entered the season after an injury-hit pre-season, but Hinkley said he had seen a rejuvenated 29-year-old on the track.

Ollie Wines after the qualifying final between Brisbane and Port Adelaide at The Gabba, September 9, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"He's pretty ready, that's what I have seen. Ollie's always been a determined young person and he didn't enjoy last year's performance himself. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me saying that," Hinkley said.

"The reality was he had so many things go against him at the start of the year that made it pretty impossible for him to get to where he wanted to go, but what I love about him was he tried his guts out and got through the whole season and gave what he had. What I've seen this pre-season [is] Ollie's back, so we hope that leads to performance."

Mitch Georgiades continues to push for a return from his knee reconstruct early last season, with the forward eyeing round one as his comeback. The goalkicker is expected to jump into full training without any restrictions within the next week, with Hinkley saying the 22-year-old was continuing to push ahead.

"He's on track for round one, the challenge will be whether we want to put him out there for round one from a physical and conditioning point of view. He's going to be hard to stop."

Mitch Georgiades during a practice match between Fremantle and Port Adelaide at Fremantle Oval on March 2, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

The Power are otherwise in a strong position with the health of their list ahead of the pre-season games, with important forward and free agent Todd Marshall back from post-season hip surgery. Marshall carried the injury through the back end of last year, including in Port's finals series, with Hinkley saying it impacted his performance.

"He's significantly better. He had a massive surgery at the end of last year and that affected him. I can't sit here and deny that it didn't affect him a fair bit. He was out there at well less than 100 per cent and he was doing his best to get the result that we needed and he's still very valuable for us because he's such a good player.

"The excitement of what we and I think of Todd is about to be reached again at another level that Todd's very capable of. He's back into training now, he's back into full match practice, but he's a different one. He still had a big time out – four months where he was restricted in what he can and can't do and that's only just passed and he's just started going into training."